Illustration of one of the stories of 'Naufraghi senza volto' about migrants who died in the Mediterranean | CREDIT: MAKKOX
Illustration of one of the stories of 'Naufraghi senza volto' about migrants who died in the Mediterranean | CREDIT: MAKKOX

An Italian coroner has written a book about migrants who died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean. One of the most heart-rending is that of a 14-year-old from Mali who died in a boat in the Mediterranean on April 18, 2015, who was carrying his school report card with him.

Stories of migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean are touching readers across social media: The book called 'Naufraghi senza Volto' ('The Drowned without a Face') tells of migrants who have the grades of a school report card sewn into their pockets, who carried with them soil from their native land kept in a plastic bag, or who carried with them a library card as if it were a business card for that new world they would not reach.

 
The stories were put together by Cristina Cattaneo, a coroner who has in recent years worked to identify the bodies of migrants and refugees who drowned at sea on their way to Europe. 

A report card 

The story commented on the most is that of a 14-year-old boy from Mali who died in a boat in the Mediterranean on April 18, 2015 but had carried his school report card with him. The popularity of the story is partially due to a cartoon that author Makkox did for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio in which fish and mollusks look at the report card and say ''Wow! all tens - a rare pearl'' in the depths of the Mediterranean, where the boy comes back to life in the cartoon. 

That internal pocket sewn into the boy's clothing in which the report card was kept is the only detail that manages to tell a bit about the boy's life. The faded, folded-up envelope carried the words ''Bulletin Scolaire'' and ''mathematics, sciences physiques'', the book says. 

Fragments of identities to restore dignity 

Cattaneo gives fragments of the victims' identities and tries to reconstruct them to restore a bit of dignity to those who desperately sought to flee their homes in search of a better life. She also tells of the finding of the body of an Eritrean boy who had been carrying a sack of earth from his native land and another one of a boy from Ghana who had taken a library card with him. 

These attempts to bring a bit of the past with them can be seen as attempts not to disappear entirely, teaching that one can die while still carrying hope, the book seems to imply. 
 

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